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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/24/12

The Human Cost of War on Iran

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Does the mainstream news media encourage a culture of war that conditions its citizens not to think about the human suffering of foreign citizens? Could it be that our corporate-controlled media do not want Americans to care about the fact that the bodies of men, women and children in Iran will be torn apart by the massive bombings, air attacks, or deteriorate slowly and painfully from radiation-related sicknesses that will accompany exposure to depleted uranium from "bunker buster" bombs?

When was the last time that footage of the dead and wounded from the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan or Pakistan came across the television screen? Even for those Americans who seek out alternative media sources, chances are that the WikiLeaks airing of the now-famous "Collateral Murder" video may have been the first -- and possibly last -- exposure to the brutality and outright criminality of these wars.

The German "Panorama" program on the "Collateral Murder" video produced an excellent segment on the leaked "Collateral Murder" video, featuring the U.S. soldier, Ethan McCord, who arrived after the slaughter and disobeyed orders by rushing one of the wounded children to get medical treatment.

The fact that such a program would be aired in Germany, where it had unusually broad and intense resonance, but not in the United States, says a great deal about the self-censorship that now pervades the U.S. news media when it comes to the death and destruction caused by American warfare.

The U.S. news media was not always so reticent about showing the bloody realities of war. When U.S. television aired graphic, prime-time images of wounded American soldiers and terrified villagers in Vietnam, Americans responded by forming a massive anti-war movement that eventually forced an end to the conflict in Southeast Asia.

Neocon pundit Norman Podhoretz, a vigorous supporter of the Vietnam War as well as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, was disgusted by the U.S. withdrawal from Southeast Asia and believed it was necessary for American society to get over the "Vietnam Syndrome" -- namely, what he termed "the sickly inhibitions against the use of military force."

(A principal public-relations goal of the Reagan and Bush-41 administrations was to cure the American people of this "Vietnam Syndrome," a process that progressed through the small wars of the 1980s, like the invasion of Grenada, to the mid-sized invasion of Panama to the larger-scale Persian Gulf War against Iraq. After the slaughter of that 100-hour ground war ended, President George H.W. Bush declared, "By God, we've kicked the Vietnam Syndrome once and for all.")

Since the post-9/11 launch of U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the corporate-controlled mainstream media has been remarkably successful at keeping the realities of war away from the TV screens. News executives have heeded the complaints of war hawks complaining about "unpatriotic" coverage of war and have clamped down tightly on images that might turn public opinion against war.

Until recently, this censorship of war casualties included a prohibition on the broadcasting of images of military coffins arriving at Dover Air Force Base. Ignoring the grim realities of war also has allowed for its glamorization through television programs such as "Stars Earn Stripes."

The absence of pro-peace voices in the mainstream media also has contributed to isolating Americans from the realities of war, stoking irrational fears, and contributing to the dehumanization of the victims of war as the faceless "Other."

The value of compassion for our fellow humans is often portrayed as weakness in mainstream media discourse -- a development that must give immense satisfaction to Podhoretz and others of his ilk who railed against the "sickly inhibitions" against violence that infected Americans after the Vietnam War.

As the stakes rise for U.S. involvement in a reckless and ill-advised Israeli military adventure against Iran, let us not forget that those who advocate such wars are almost always comfortably ensconced in locations and lifestyles that ensure they will never have to see a battlefield, a mangled corpse, or a deformed child in their lifetime.

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Elizabeth Murray served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council before retiring from a 27-year career in the U.S. government, where she specialized in Middle Eastern political and media (more...)

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